Quite a long time ago now, and apparently at some sort of dangerous loose end, Alfred Wainwright decided to plan a walking route from the West coast of England to the East. He scoured the maps and came up with:
"...a journey on foot from St. Bees Head on the Irish Sea to Robin Hood's Bay on the North sea, the route crossing the Lake District and the Pennines into Swaledale and ending with a traverse of the Cleveland Hills and the North York Moors. [The route] links three National Parks.
The length of the walk is 190 miles, all of it on rights of way or through areas of open access, and an average walker will do it in two weeks."
AW walked his route in 1972, and when he got home he wrote his book: A Coast to Coast Walk. He dedicated the book to "The Second Person (unidentifiable as yet) to walk from St. Bees Head to Robin Hood's Bay", and it was first published in 1973.
It's not clear when the first person set out to walk in AW's footsteps, but it's certainly the case that--35 years after AW got home--thousands of people set out to walk his route on an annual basis. People come from all over the world to do it. This year alone I met and/or was told about people from all over Britain, as well as from America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Germany and Holland. Not quite all four corners of the world, but those were only the people who started one weekend in early September...
It's so long ago since I first thought of doing it that I can no longer remember precisely when I first tried. It must have been some time in the early 1990s. I'd never done a long distance walk before, let alone with a tent, and I had to go home half way through and see an orthopaedic surgeon, having knackered my knees getting down Dent on the first day with far too much weight in my rucksack. I managed to struggle on to Bent's Farm, between Orton and Reeth, but there I gave up and was led, weeping, by the kind farmer's wife to a cup of tea in a deep armchair beside a warm fire, and later settled for the night in one of the comfiest beds I can remember sleeping in.
Chastened, I returned to safer pursuits, like hockey and Gaelic football. In July 2000, though, I found myself with 2 weeks off and no plan, and so I decided at the last moment to set off on the C2C again. That time I got the Coast to Coast Packhorse and Sherpa people to carry most of my kit while I confined myself to carrying a daypack, and it was one of the two best holiday experiences I've ever had in my life. That was mainly because I was lucky enough to run into a bunch of fantastic people on the Packhorse minibus to St. Bees ("Hello!" to Mark, Sue, Les and Matt: still, and indisputably, The Best C2C Companions in the World), but the great weather and absence of significant weight helped too.
I did the walk again in 2002, that time carrying all of my kit but staying in B&Bs. It was fun, but not nearly as much fun as it had been 2 years earlier, and I had no plans to complete it a third time. However, in September this year some time became suddenly and unexpectedly available. I wanted to get away, and didn't want to waste the opportunity, and so very much at the last moment (i.e. the week beforehand) I decided to take my tent and do the Coast to Coast a final time. This is the description of that walk.
I'm going to put together a fairly detailed account of what I did, with lots of photos, because I like re-reading these things when I'm stuck at home instead of away for the weekend. Also, and because I'm a sad gear addict, I'm going to make a list of what I took, partly in the hope that it might help somebody else but mainly because I just really enjoy wittering on endlessly about backpacking kit :)
I'll be putting links to the pages up over the course of the next